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Congress to demand details of Obama's $1.6 billion plan to train forces to fight the Islamic State

The House and Senate are on the verge of passing legislation that would require the Obama administration to fully describe its plan to train and equip Iraqis, Kurds and other allied forces in Iraq fighting the Islamic State.

Members of the Armed Services Committees in the House and Senate released legislation Tuesday night that reflects a bipartisan agreement on a defense authorization bill. That bill, which is likely to pass by next week, includes language requiring a detailed report from Obama on the plan to train forces in Iraq.

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 9.35.24 AM This image shows militants from the Islamic State taking aim at captured Iraqi soldiers after taking over a base in Tikrit, Iraq.
Image: AP Photo via militant website

Earlier this year, the Obama administration proposed $1.6 billion in new funding to train Iraqis, Kurds and tribal security forces. The defense bill agreed to by Republicans and Democrats authorizes that level of funding, but initially, it only lets the administration use 25 percent of that amount.

The rest of the funding would become available when "the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, submits a report on the plan for providing such assistance and re-training and re-equipping the Iraqi Security Forces, and the President submits a report on how such assistance fits within a broader regional strategy."

The bill would also require the administration to report on its efforts each quarter. In a document describing the legislation, members of the House and Senate noted the "significant contribution" that Kurdish forces have made in the fight against the Islamic State, and said they want the administration to boost training for these forces.

"[W]e expect that a significant portion of the assistance under this authority will be provided to meet the requirements of the Kurdish security forces," they wrote.

The huge authorization bill would allow a total of $557.1 billion to be spent by the Defense Department in fiscal year 2015, which matches the Obama administration's request. Nearly $500 billion of that total would go toward base Defense Department operations, and another $63.7 billion would be for overseas war activities.

The bill also included some consequences for Russia, after that country's illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine earlier this year.

For example, it said no federal money can be spent on bilateral military-to-military contact with Russia until Defense certifies that Russia has ceased occupation of Ukrainian territory. It also said the U.S. cannot share missile defense information with Russia, and would require the administration to submit a report on Russia's non-compliance with Intermedia-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

One last thing…
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